Ferrari GTO Engineering 250 California Spyder Revival Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Thursday 28th September
Car Review

Ferrari GTO Engineering 250 California Spyder Revival review

Published: 08 Oct 2021


What is it like to drive?

Turn the diminutive key from 12 to 6 o-clock. Then push it into the dashboard. Just a breath of throttle, and the V12 catches. It idles noisily and ejects as much petrol as a VW Up consumes in a week straight out of those long overhanging exhausts. There’s no starter button, no needle-sweep from the dials, or any animations on the dashboard. 

And yet, there’s a huge amount of theatre in just rousing the Cali Spyder, and then sitting there amid the noise and fumes, letting it settle down and warm up. Another blip of the gas pedal rocks the steel body (made of slightly thicker metal than originally to aid stiffness and weather hardiness) on its springs. 

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The clutch travel is long, but finding the biting point isn’t the guessing game of a true period car. The gearshift is positive and decisive. You’re left in no doubt when you’ve actually found the gate and slotted home. This builds confidence. Even the way the lever is designed to be held – gripped in the first with fingers wrapped around the ridged back – lets on this isn’t a shift to be prissy about. 

So it’s easy to drive?

There’s a contradiction about the Cali Spyder, and it’s this. It’s a car to be seen in. You want onlookers to drink in its subtle curvature, inky paintwork, mirror-finish brightwork and respect the individual threading it through town. But town speed is not where the Cali is happy. It’s where the unassisted steering is hardest work, the lack of door mirrors is most noticeable, and where you notice that the only gear it’s tough to select is reverse. A word to prospective owners: keep your valet handy, and have him park it on your behalf. 

Does it go like a pensionable old classic, or a true thoroughbred?

Be selfish. You’ve earned it. Quit the town and take this artform to the open road, where you can enjoy it. Well, you and everyone in a three-mile radius who will look to the heavens and wonder if a WWII flypast is imminent as you climb past 4,000rpm in second, hook third and bury the throttle once more. 

This is the healthiest, strongest-feeling ‘old’ V12 you can possibly imagine, blessed with response that will strain your neck muscles and tense your core. And it’s seriously fast too. Somehow a 0-60 seems a little undignified, but I’d bet on the Cali to keep pace with a Boxster. If you must know, then reckon on 0-60 in six seconds, and over 150mph flat out. 

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Will it ruin my very expensive haircut?

At a cruise, the Spyder is a good spyder. It ruffles the hair no more than an MX-5 and doesn’t buffet in the breeze. There’s no provision for a roof, though GTO is making a drop-on tent for an insistent German customer that apparently does those delectable lines no favours whatsoever. This is a car for sunny days – and when the sun is shining the Spyder is probably preferable to the 250 SWB coupe GTO will sell you, on account of being less stuffy inside. 

So, you’re encouraged to get out and use the thing. GTO’s engineers say one of the most rewarding parts of their job is knowing they’re building cars for customers who intend to drive them, not squirrel them away in a laboratory-clean garage and wait for the values to rise. 

Is the handling any good?

Find some corners to see what they’re on about. Yes, the steering (optionally a quicker ratio on this car) is sloppily vague off-centre – in total contrast to modern Ferrari philosophy – but nothing about the way the Cali moves feels slack. There’s squidge in the tyre sidewall and a bit of flex in the chassis over broken roads, but somehow it all melds together in a consistent and trustworthy whole. 

You can drive it like a proper sports car, picking a line, adjusting it mid corner, braking with accuracy and leaning on the grip instead of pussyfooting and apologising for it. You’re kept busy, but you’re never frightened. 

There’s so much road at your disposal, on account of its microscopic footprint. Visibility is fabulous. The sound is all-encompassing. Every now and again, you’ll spot a reflection of your face in the wide-eyed rev-counter and speedo. The face is always grinning.

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